When Jaguar Disrupts The Norm; Crossing over to the E-Pace

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When #disruptthenorm is the hashtag for the launch of the new Jaguar E-Pace, you know that the organisers are thinking in terms of spaciousness, not limitation.

But day-to-day relationships with a vehicle are different. Being able to test-drive the E-Pace in actual city conditions meant having to experience the on-road capabilities as the end user would in an everyday situation; traffic leaving the airport, stop-streets (and speed bumps) in the suburbs on school collections and driving on roads for weekends away out of the city. Whilst this was not the norm with first-drives, it provided an accurate and realistic understanding of the capabilities of an actual drive.

At the onset, we need to determine the popularity of SUVs and Crossovers with South African buyers. Admittedly, we love the bulkier looks, the upright driving position and the feeling of safety they appear to allow their occupants. They are quickly becoming the most favoured cars amongst families (and in my mind, primary drivers are women with children) and younger adults.

For most women, cars are just a mode of utility transportation. For me: I like to drive. And I drive a lot.

Utility isn’t the only thing I want in a car. I want to enjoy the drive and be comfortable every single time that I get into and out of my car (on average over 14 times daily between 4 children and their schedules).

Admittedly, my favourite car (of all time) was my chili red Mini Cooper S which was fitted with an Italian Ociari bodykit by Autostyle Motorsport. I’ve grown up since then (where boot space overrides sexiness) and my needs in a vehicle can be summarised in 5 points:

1. Can it go over 5 speed bumps daily without me having to reduce my speed to below 100km.

2. Is there sufficient space for my children to change in and eat in without messing or falling over whilst driving or when the car has come to a stop.

3. Is there space for coins, a mug or paper coffee cup and a bottled water.

4. Are there more than 2 USB ports or charging stations in my car, and

5. Will other cars move out of my way when they see me approach in the rear-view mirror (it’s 12.35pm and I’ve left Sandton to be at school at 12.45pm. I need cars to move).

But there are times that all 4 children aren’t with me at the same time. Enter, the Jaguar E-Pace.

Almost like an SUV, smaller in size, easier to get around in, not as small as a car (and can go over bumps at 100km), seats 2 or 3 children comfortably in the back seats and holds 4 x 1 liter bottles of water.

After my first-drive, here’s what I thought about the car.

First Impression:

On first glance, the E-Pace has the ability to put its best self forward without deception. If personified (for me), it is the newly appointed exec who is the life of the party. He (or she) is young however bores easily, dynamic and appreciative of technology, powerful with a sense of progress, and has an understanding of a new level of luxury. Basically, he has arrived.

She can also be a stay-at-home mum, with 3 children commuting back and forth to school and grocery errands. She wants the convenience of a medium sized car, with the off-road capabilities for weekends out of Joburg. She also needs to make sure that she is always connected and has the convenience of multiple charging ports (this has become a need rather than a want in any newer vehicle).

I don’t find the looks intimidating enough. From the front, Jaguar’s biggest-ever Growler grille badge in the centre is what you mostly see approaching you from behind – of course, you feel compelled to move over, after all, as small and compact as it appears to be, it is a Jaguar after all indicating a brand that has become synonymous with quality and luxury. I much prefer the appearance of the car from behind. The slim taillights, pronounced roof spoiler, and round tailpipe finishers are neatly integrated into the rear valance, providing a visual reminder of the vehicle’s performance, exhaust note and refinement, inspired by jet engine tailpipes. Your kids will point, they will stare and they will photograph you driving away.

The E-PACE is the first vehicle in its class to offer 21-inch wheels with five split-spoke, diamond turned Satin Grey rims. The Side fender vents are in polished chrome. On R-Dynamic models, the vents are finished in satin chrome.

A raft of beautiful details also show the fun and quirky side of Jaguar; on HSE models Jaguar ‘contemporary animal print’ designer labels are sewn into the shoulder hem of the front seats (in red on First Edition vehicles) and the same pattern is repeated on rubber mats in stowage areas. The fun ‘Jaguar Cub’ graphic in the obscuration band of the windscreen and integrated into the puddle lamp projection have been incorporated solely to put a smile on customers’ faces (if you notice it).

How many does the E-Pace seat:

The E-Pace is designed to seat 5; there is space for 3 smaller adults or 3 children at the rear. I found the drivers space slightly ‘congested’ in both the Diesel and Petrol that I drove. The console extends too far into you from the sides making the space slightly claustrophobic for a larger male.

Interior Technology:

Even though there are super tech-savvy girls reading this (looking at you Nafisa Akabor), I’m more of a functional is-it-there and does-it-work kind of user. I basically need a USB slot (2 preferably) or a cigarette lighter charger, a touchscreen that is functional without too many tabs to minimise distraction and a volume button on my steering wheel. If you must know, the E-Pace is kitted with a 10-inch capacitive touchscreen as standard, 4G WiFi hotspot for up to eight devices, Head-Up Display and Spotify. As a standard, customers receive four 12-volt charging points – located in the front console, inside the center cubby box, rear of the centre console for second-row passengers and in the luggage space – and two USB charging points, both found within the center cubby.

All five occupants are provided with their own USB charging point. Customers will have the convenience of power points across both rows of seats and the luggage compartment.

If customers specify additional power sockets, the 12-volt point at the rear of the center console is replaced with three USB charging points.

The USB points in the cubby box both allow data transfer (streaming music or video) as well as charging of devices.

Navigation:

Satellite navigation benefits from dead-reckoning functionality that accurately positions the vehicle even when GPS signals can no longer be received. This feature is further enhanced by a smartphone companion app, Route Planner, which makes it easier to plan journeys that involve driving, public transport and walking. The E-PACE’s guidance integrates real-time traffic data, parking and filling stations while the Share ETA function enables the driver to notify selected contacts of their arrival time by SMS or email.

Commute Mode learns your daily drive so it can automatically offer alternative routes to avoid congestion using real-time traffic information, and Arrival Mode shows a 360-degree interactive view of your destination when you’re 200m away, as well as suggesting the nearest available parking spaces.

Interior Design:

If you’re a very tactile person (and all about the actual feel of the car), the E-Pace comes with premium materials, ensuring every touch point emphasizes the sense of quality. Soft trimmed door casings with cool touch, satin chrome door handles, the leather-clad facia and seat upholstery with twin-needle stitching all enhance the sense of Jaguar luxury.

Inside, R-Dynamic models retain the E-PACE’s exceptional comfort and refinement. Sports-style seats with unique shoulder profiles and deeper bolsters are the most eye-catching addition. The R-Dynamic seats feature a unique and highly tactile Sportmesh finish and a selection of leather seat finishes in vibrant colours with contrast stitching to highlight the model’s sporty character.

The only thing that baffled me on the interior aesthetics was a passenger ‘handle’. I know that it was inspired by the F-TYPE, but I’m not sure why I’d need to grab onto it when someone else is driving (safety? racing-inspired? design feature?). It’s not obtrusive, it’s just there.

Storage space, cup holders and the just-because space that we need:

There isn’t a dedicated pull-out draw for coins. It might seem very irrelevant for some, but I’m used to being able to store coins in a little pull-out draw for convenience (car-guards, petrol attendant, etc). The space below the radio/front console has a place to store stuff (but not concealed) and just feels like it doesn’t have enough depth to properly ‘house’ anything.

There is a space for 2 bottles/coffee cups in the middle, and a lift-up storage compartment that could store bottles of water but no cooler (spoilt with my Disco 4). There aren’t any pull out drinks/cup holders but that’s not really important to me. The space on the side of the doors are suitable for a medium-sized makeup bag, a box/tube of tissues and a sunglasses case. I think I needed a small space somewhere in the middle to keep a lipstick and perhaps my house keys.

Inside the stowage compartment between the front seats are two USB points (for connectivity and charging), a 12-volt socket and a smartphone holder inside, as well as a tablet retainer to prevent damage to devices being charged inside. A storage net on the underside of the lid holds small loose items.

The boot space is large enough for a proper grocery shop or to lug around sports equipment for school kids. It’s said to hold 6 cabin-sized luggage just so you can gauge just how large the boot is.

The Drive

  1. Can it go over speedbumps – yes, with no braking required. In fact, you could go over a bump at a minimum speed of 100km. Suspension is in top form.
  2. Can it take a bend – gently, but firm. The tyres keep you fixed securely on the road and if the car detects any under steer during a corner, it will automatically perform light braking on the inside wheels to make sure you keep on your driving line. The steering wheel tightens slightly and a green line indicating the lane or lines that you’re meant to stay within shows up on the screen. I like that my steering wheel stiffened up gently just as a reminder that I needed to stay in my own lane.

If speed is a priority to you, the Diesel might not be the most suitable option (even though I somewhat expected this to impress me).

The E-PACE is available with Standard, S, SE and HSE specification packs, in core or R-Dynamic body styles. Customers have a choice of three diesel engines, with outputs of 110kW, 132kW and 177kW, and two petrol engines, producing 183kW and 221kW, respectively. Basically, to my girls, I drove the entry Diesel and the entry Petrol and I definitely enjoyed the drive of the Petrol more. I also appreciated the change when switching to Manual function on the Petrol to fully appreciate the drive. I felt that the Diesel just lagged on take-off and it sounded as if it was struggling a bit. The Petrol was most efficient in terms of getting going although driving at 120km felt a bit on the slower side (for me).

The E-PACE’s Configurable Dynamics package allows customers to select either Normal or Dynamic settings for the throttle response mapping, steering response and transmission shift speed. You can opt for one of the 4 driving controls (all able to select on the steering). I drove the Petrol and Diesel on 3 out of the 4 modes and Dynamic remained my most favoured. It provides a more engaging driving experience, with a dedicated Dynamic setting. Depending on the vehicle specification, these can include the steering, throttle response, AWD/Active Driveline, transmission shift strategy, Dynamic Stability Control and Torque Vectoring by Braking.

A nice-to-have:

The E-PACE also offers an Activity Key. This wearable technology is designed for customers to use when enjoying leisure and sports activities where carrying a conventional key is not practical (so picture parking off to run and you really don’t want to take your keys with you). The waterproof and shockproof wristband provides secure access to the vehicle using a sensor above the rear number plate. It basically operates by using a transponder which is embedded within a rubber strap. It has no moving parts and requires no batteries. To lock or unlock the E-PACE, customers simply perform a ‘digital handshake’ with the vehicle, holding the wristband up to the upper lip of the numberplate surround on the tailgate. When the Activity Key is in use, the main vehicle key fobs are disabled, rendering them useless and the vehicle immobile in the event of a break-in.

If you’ve driven a car with a Head Up Display before, then you’re already gotten used to using this feature. If not, it takes some getting used to, but I’m not sure (for me) how essential this is. I like the idea of not having to shift the focus of my eye when driving to the large display but I think my height doesn’t allow me to fully enjoy this feature. I felt like I constantly needed to lift my head up more than I was used to or adjust my sitting position to see it. Even though it’s meant to be in a drivers eyeline, I felt it was more of a distraction for me personally and might take some getting used to. It highlights the essentials such as speed and navigation directions, engine speed data, details of the chosen entertainment media and the adaptive cruise control settings, as well as lane departure and blind spot warnings.I think once I own a car with a HUD, I might get used to it and appreciate it a bit more.

PDC has become an essential in an car that I drive. If you need a bit extra assistance, the Park Assist function can steer the vehicle into parallel and bay parking spaces. The ultrasonic sensors measure the space to ensure suitability and then steers the vehicle itself – the driver simply controls the accelerator and brakes.

The bottom line:

The E-PACE blends sports car design with compact SUV practicality. The result is a car that will attract many new drivers to the Jaguar family and energise the entire market segment.

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